South Carolina's streak ends in maybe Boston's final game
By STEPHEN HAWKINS
DALLAS (AP) South Carolina's shot at perfection is over, and so is its chance to repeat as national champion.
The Gamecocks couldn't get past Iowa and Caitlin Clark in the women's Final Four.
With All-American Aliyah Boston plagued by foul trouble in what very likely was her final game, and Clark scoring almost every point for the Hawkeyes in the fourth quarter, South Carolina lost 77-73 in the national semifinals on Friday night, ending its 42-game winning streak.
The Gamecocks had won their first 36 games this season to get to the Final Four for the third year in a row with a group led by Boston.
“It felt like any other game. We just didn’t perform,” Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley said. “We didn’t make more plays than we needed to make, especially down the stretch, and that hasn’t been us all season long. But I never, I don’t think our players felt pressure, any other pressure besides wanting to win another basketball game.”
There hasn't been a repeat national champion since UConn won four in a row from 2013-16. That streak by the Huskies ended when South Carolina won its first title in 2017, in the same arena where this year's Final Four is being played.
South Carolina was the first undefeated team since UConn in 2018 to lose in the Final Four. The Gamecocks missed a chance to become the 10th team to finish a season without a loss.
While the 6-foot-5 Boston is a senior, she could return for another title chance because of the COVID-19 season that didn't count against any player's eligibility. But she is also projected to be one of the top picks in the WNBA draft, maybe the first one.
“I would tell her to go,” Staley said. “She's great. She's ready. She's ready to see single coverage, she's ready to make the next step to the league.”
Boston finished with eight points and 10 rebounds in 25 1/2 minutes on the court. She was scoreless in the first half, when she took just one shot and was limited to only eight minutes after two early fouls.
“I haven't decided,” Boston said about her future. “The decision is a big decision. I was going to have to really write down the pros and cons of everything, and so whether we won or not, it would still be something I would consider.”
After trailing into the fourth quarter for only the second time this season, Staley’s team quickly erased a four-point deficit in the first minute. Raven Johnson hit a 3-pointer and after a turnover by Clark, Boston had a driving layup to put the Gamecocks up 60-59.
That was their last lead. Clark hit a 3 and went on to score 16 of Iowa's 18 points in the final quarter.
South Carolina's roster lists seven players who are seniors or graduate students. Boston is among the five of those who could return for another season.
“She's meant everything to our program. She has been the cornerstone of our program for the past four years. She elevated us. She raised the standard of how to approach basketball,” Staley said. “I slept very well know she was with our program, and I'll sleep well knowing that's she's OK, and she will definitely make her mark at the next level.”
AP coverage of March Madness: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25
Updated April 1, 2023